ABC News open to extra Media Watch

It sometimes causes internal friction at Ultimo, but ABC News boss is not opposed to more of Media Watch.

“Only the ABC would have a program that criticises itself,” says Gaven Morris.

But that’s just what a public broadcaster should be doing, according to the ABC News boss.

“We should be able to analyse ourselves just as much as we choose to analyse others. So while that puts noses out of joint from time to time, I think that’s a real strength to the ABC.”

But could Media Watch also offer a longer-form show on ABC News channel, including with a weekly interview? After all, today there is much media to consume than when the show first launched in 1989.

“I frankly don’t disagree with that”

“I frankly don’t disagree with that,” Morris tells TV Tonight. “Many times where that conversation has come up I’ve thought a longer version of Media Watch could be something that the ABC should think about. But because it’s not in my team we’ve never really gone there.

“But I don’t disagree with that observation.”

Media Watch has always operated separately within ABC, falling outside of Morris’ news domain so that it can criticise broadcaster where necessary.

Sometimes that has led to friction within the Ultimo building.

“We get a bit annoyed with it, sometimes.”

“We have been a target of Media Watch just as much as many other news outlets have. We get a bit annoyed with it, sometimes. Sometimes they take shots at us, like all the other media do, that we think aren’t necessarily fair and square. But that’s their job,” Morris admits.

“Their job is to analyse and critique what goes on in the news business and we’re just as often a target of that as anybody else.

“I think the only tension that exists between ABC News across the board and Media Watch is the fact that we don’t like being observed and criticised.”

In 2012 TV Tonight asked then-host Jonathan Holmes if it was time for an extended edition, but he felt the current length ensured the show packed a punch.

“It would lose its personal flavour and I doubt you’d actually cover all that much more ground,” he replied.

“There would be weeks where you would be scratching the barrel.”

“I’m not saying that a bit longer wouldn’t be nice, but I think 20 minutes is about as far as you could go with that format. And obviously 20 minutes is not particularly useful time for the schedule. Even at 20 there would be weeks where you would be scratching the barrel.”

Media Watch Executive Producer Tim Latham  tells TV Tonight, “We’re often running 16-17 mins now and as things stand, a longer Media Watch is evolving.

“When I started in 2014 the show was running around 12 mins and that was far too brief.”

“The key issue for us is to maintain pace and entertainment”

“The key issue for us is to maintain pace and entertainment without the program dragging,” he said.

“This is more important than a set duration.”

Media Watch also screens a separate Media Bytes pitched to a younger, online audience every Thursday.

16 Responses

  1. Why not just tailor the show to how much content it has on any given week ?
    Let it run longer if there is a heap of stuff to report on , cut to the the minimum time if there’s nothing going on.
    Surely the ABC and viewers would be OK with that ?

  2. Interesting. I reckon a set 20m run time would work just fine – bit more time (particularly for ‘busy’ weeks or to give space for occasional longer piece or interview) without losing the ‘pace’ and making the overall schedule issue problematic.

    1. My suggestion has always been for a longer form on ABC News channel, same as we had a longer Gruen on multichannel. It’s the same show with more, such as an interview, or to include extra stories that did not make the cut in a busy week. A few times I’ve noticed big stories get no coverage because of time constraints (both with Holmes and Barry hosting, to be clear).

      1. Having worked on Media Watch, i know it to be the most legalled show on the ABC, even more than Four Corners. Every second of its running time is considered and reconsidered; double and triple checked; so although plenty of folks have said why can’t it be longer – it has never been overly resourced and from my experience, and I had a few different roles on it, it would need more resources to do more of the same – but an extended interview, sure – that is not so labour intensive. Get a crew, prep the host or producer for the subject and it could be a segment they break out with.

  3. Whilst Media Watch does criticise the ABC, they do focus much on the commercial networks and press, and not so much on the ABC news criticism or investigation when it’s due, such as the Queen’s speech live broadcast controversy from April.

    The other aspect of broadcasting viewer or consumer criticism, complaints or questions has also been lacking since the days of SBS Hotline, a program in which viewer criticisms were read out and addressed or responded to. The concept of SBS Hotline was very good and could be brought back or implemented on ABC and SBS. It serves as a good example for any organisation to publicly address feedback.

    1. I was thinking about Hotline while I was reading the article. It was genuine attempt to connect with and respond to the audience. Media Watch has always been about bombastic op-ed delivered from on high with nothing conceded from Littlemore a top Silk to Barry a left-wing activist-journalist. But Hotline wouldn’t work today, Media Watch is more of the times.

        1. I had an inkling about the ABC consumer feedback show as mentioned or referenced to, though Hotline had finished more recently, possibly mid to late ’00s compared to when BackChat was listed to have ended. I think the format could still work if feedback was submitted formally by e-mail or letters by post instead of by social media.

  4. At least the ABC is open to the idea of being critical of itself. Try making any sort of criticism of the SMH via their comments or Letters to Editor and it does not get published. Hypocritical for a newspaper that trades on exposing the faults of others to denies others to criticise itself.

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